Sunday, 1 August 2021

Jesus says, ‘I am the Bread of Life’
But, who do you think you are?

‘I am the Bread of Life’ (John 6: 35) … preparing bread for the Eucharist in the Rectory, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 1 August 2021

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity.

9.30:
The Parish Eucharist, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

11.30: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry

The Readings: II Samuel 11: 26 to 12: 13a; Psalm 51: 1-13; John 6: 24-35

There is a link to readings HERE.

‘My Father … gives you the true bread from heaven’ (John 6: 32) … a mosaic in Saint Matthew’s Church, Great Peter Street, Westminster (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Some years ago, I took part in the popular television series, Who Do You Think You Are?

I did some of the research on Dervla Kirwan, famous for her roles from Ballykissangel to Smother. The show is still popular, and I still get messages from America and England from friends and family who have just seen repeats.

But that question, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, goes much deeper than the details that programme unearths about Victorian great-grandparents.

‘Who are you?’

When most of us are asked this question in normal chit-chat, we probably first answer by our name, the name we like to be known by.

Given a second chance, even when we ask ourselves that question, we usually reply in ways that show our most important, our deepest, relationships: Mother/Daughter, Father/Son, Wife/Husband, Sister/Brother, Uncle/Aunt, Niece/Nephew, Grandparent/Grandchild …

Relationships define us, relationships shape us, relationships place us in family and society … and relationships can sometimes even destroy us, yet they still continue to define us.

But that is how we see ourselves, usually, when we are asked casually, ‘Who are you?’

But there is also a third way of asking and answering that question.

In my previous roles, in media and academic life, I noticed quite often when people asked one another these questions, and exchanged cards, they spent little time looking at each other’s names on the cards, and more time figuring out their roles.

The questions that are being really asked at these receptions and conferences are not ‘Are you Patrick?’ or ‘Are you a parent/partner?’

The questions being asked, deep down, are ‘What do you do?’ and ‘Are you useful in my network?’

Can you get me more business, more sales, more votes, more media attention?

And then, there is another, perhaps fourth question, when it comes to identity: ‘Where are you from?’

Since Thursday morning’s gold medal win for the Skibbereen rowers, I cannot count the number of people on my Facebook feed who claim West Cork connections.

Where am I from?

The answer connects me with so many shared connections, friends, family members, schoolfriends, memories … why, we might even find we are related!

These are the sort of questions the crowd are asking Jesus in our Gospel reading this morning:

Where are you from? (verse 24)

When did you come here? (verse 25)

What do you work at? (verse 30)

What can you do for me? (verse 30)

Why, like scriptwriters for that television series, they even recall their ancestors and what they did in the past (verse 31).

But, like those people exchanging business cards at a reception, there are few questions about relationship or relationships. They try to define him (‘rabbi’, verse 25), so they can box him in.

Instead, Jesus tries to answer them in term of relationships.

Set aside all those wonders and miracles, he tells them (verse 26). Stop playing the status-seeking game (verse 29).

What iss more important than all these is what is in your heart (verse 29).

And did you notice how he insists on speaking of himself in relationship to God the Father, who has sent him?

And then Jesus uses the first of his seven ‘I AM’ sayings in Saint John’s Gospel, ‘I am the bread of life’ (John 6: 35).

These seven ‘I AM’ sayings are traditionally listed as:

1, I am the Bread of Life (John 6: 35, 48)
2, I am the Light of the World (John 8: 12)
3, I am the gate (or the door) (John 10: 7)
4, I am the Good Shepherd (John 10: 11 and 14)
5, I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11: 25)
6, I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14: 6)
7, I am the true vine (John 15: 1, 5)

These ‘I AM’ sayings echo the divine name revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, ‘I AM’ (Exodus 3: 14).

If I am made in the image and likeness of God, how could I possibly say who I am in the ways Jesus says who he is?

Bread: when did I last help to feed the hungry … those who are physically and spiritually hungry?

The Light of the World … when did I last speak out against prejudice, bigotry, hatred and scaremongering, and shine a light into these dark shadows of the world?

The gate or the door … am I welcoming, hospitable, open, an advocate of pluralism, diversity and tolerance in our society?

The Good Shepherd … do I look after people, care for them, especially those people no-one else seems to think is worth bothering about?

I could go down through all seven ‘I AM’ sayings and find they are a very good checklist not just for me as a priest but for any Christian, indeed for any person.

Christ is the bread of life and the light of the world. We must also offer that light and life that Christ offers us to the world.

Would it make any difference if the Church not only preached what it believes, but worked actively to see these beliefs put into practice?

Our response to the love we receive from God – a risky outpouring that is beyond all human understanding of generosity – can only be to love. In the Epistle reading provided for today (Ephesians 4: 1-16), the Apostle Paul begs us to lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called, bearing with one another in love (verse 2).

That call to love is not just to love those who are easy to love. It is a call to love those who are difficult to love too, to love all in the world … and to love beyond words. And that should be a good enough definition of who I am.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness’ (John 6: 31) … in the mountain passes above Preveli on the south coast of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 24-35 (NRSVA):

24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ 26 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ 28 Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ 29 Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 30 So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat”.’ 32 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’

‘They found him on the other side of the lake’ (John 6: 25) … a summer scene on the Lakes of Killarney (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
Open our hearts to the riches of his grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect of the Word:

Living God,
whose Son Jesus fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us with your true and living bread,
Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
In that new world where you reveal the fulness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet
of Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Bread of the world in mercy broken’ (Hymn 403) … bread marked with crosses in the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

403, Bread of the world in mercy broken (Askeaton), CD 24
425, Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts (Tarbert), CD 25
418, Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face (CD 25)

‘I am the Bread of Life’ … a modern icon of the Communion of the Apostles

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



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